A DISTRICT Court judge has come under fire for accusing Roma parents of "raising their children to steal".
Judge Aingeal Ni Chonduin's remarks at the Children's Court in Dublin have been described as reinforcing racial stereotypes against Roma people.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland said the judge's remarks were "inappropriate and unfair", while Pavee Point Travellers Centre said they further "scapegoated" the Roma community.
The judge was commenting after a 16-year-old mother of one admitted theft of several pairs of shoes and handling stolen clothes.
Judge Ni Chonduin remarked: "That seems to be the culture -- the family owns her. That is the way the families function, unfortunately, to go about to steal."
Judge Ni Chonduin also said it seemed that the children were "raised" to steal.
"It is a different culture; it does not go with our ways and our shops are being robbed blind. I feel sorry for these children."
The Immigrant Council of Ireland said it felt the judge's remarks were unfair to the Roma community.
"To draw conclusions about a whole culture based on a court case is inappropriate and unfair," a spokeswoman said.
"It is unfortunate that the judge's comments just reinforce prejudice and negative stereotypes."
Pavee Point, which runs a Roma programme, expressed disappointment.
"It is not part of Roma culture or any culture that I know of to raise children to steal," a spokeswoman said.